Heroines, villains, and others propel your story according to their personalities and the actions they perform; traits and abilities that you assign to them.
In developing characterization, you know your story. You know what the characters must do to bring the story to closure. You then begin creating characters that will get the job done.
You will always need a protagonist, the focal character in the story, and one or more antagonists. The latter would be anyone or anything or situation that keeps the protagonist from achieving his or her desire.
The antagonist need not always be a person. It can be a situation, but remember to develop this thoroughly. The antagonist can also be both a person and a situation, together, thwarting the protagonist.
In my novel, The Tropics, I have two heroines. This is due to the way I built the novel as a whole, by including three novellas that are intertwined. The characters age as the time line moves forward through each story. Events in their lives move forward as well.
The following is a list of characters presented in each of the three novellas.
Child of a Storm
Caught in a Rip
Characters in the 3 stories:
Child of a Storm
Ciara Malloy - Protagonist. Writer of children’s storybooks. Moved to Puerto Rico after vacationing there. Engaged to Rico Rey.
Frederico (Rico) Pablo Rey – Cuban immigrant. Construction contractor in Puerto Rico. Devoted father of Pablo Rey.
Pablo Frederico Rey – Son of Rico Rey, almost eight years old when the story begins, precocious, gregarious, fearless.
Domingo – Deranged, disfigured hulk of a man living in shack on an uninhabited island. Rescues Ciara, Rico, and Pablo when the Mercy (two-masted ketch named after Rico’s mother, Mercedes) sinks during a sea storm.
John Patterson – Coast Guardsman
Juan Lazaro-Vidal - Rico’s Attorney
Lillian Avery (mentioned) – Ciara’s next door neighbor in Puerto Rico.
Since I have two heroines in these stories that are intertwined, I inserted information about Lillian, the protagonist from the second and third stories.
Also, the antagonist in this story is not a character. The villains in this story are the actions keeping these two people, Ciara and Rico, from finally marrying, of which, the sinking of the Mercy is only a part.
Through the entire book, even after creating characters that seem antagonistic, it is a secret about the boy, Pablo, which is the primary antagonist.
Caught in a Rip
Lillian Avery – Protagonist, avid snorkeler and underwater photographer on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. My heroines sometimes accomplish their tasks quietly. Lilly is a failure with men, lonely. She is an assertive, self-supporting woman but too passive in relationships and has a huge lesson coming her way.
Glen – antagonist of the worst kind. Retired. Acquaintance of Lillian Avery. I purposely did not include his last name in the book. Right off, he’s the type of person you wouldn’t want around you. Readers wouldn’t care if he disappeared. Also, keeping him a bit vague keeps attention on Lillian and her plight.
And, surprisingly, Glen is not one of my villains. He is an antagonist because his personality clashes with Lilly’s, but the real antagonist is Lilly being caught in a rip current and how she deals with facing the end of her life.
Lillian and Glen are the only two characters in Caught in a Rip. One or two people are only mentioned, as is Ciara.
Lilly fondly remembers the time she lived in Puerto Rico, next door to Ciara. Just one or two mentions keeps the two women connected and provides the set-up for when these two characters meet up again on Kauai.
In creating characters and their characterization, I had to age my two heroines. These women, Ciara and Lillian, were twenty-something when the story Child of a Storm began.
Now, some thirty years late in Hurricane Secret, characterization dictates that I give these heroines older personalities. Not to mention making them wiser.
Lillian Avery – Protagonist
Ciara Malloy – Secondary protagonist
Pablo Rey – About to make Commander with the Navy Seals, located in Panama.
Little Rico – Pablo Rey’s three-year-old son, Rico Rey’s grandson, in the custody of Ciara Malloy.
Kenji Nakamura – Neighbor of Lillian Avery in the Wailua Homesteads on Kauai. Husband of Masako. Eighty-something.
Masako Nakamura – Wife of Kenji. Both fled Japan when much younger. Masako caught polio and is in a wheelchair. Eighty-something.
Dolores Diego - Little Rico’s mom who committed post-partum suicide while drunk.
Keoki Nikolau – Marine Biologist. Japanese-Greek-Hawaiian friend of Lillian Avery.
Berkley Mead – Building contractor. Sometime boyfriend of Lillian Avery. Has a habit of conveniently disappearing. In creating characters, I wish I could list him as among my villains, but alas, he’s only a thorn.
Amalia Marcos Flaminio – Pablo Rey’s real mom who deserted him and Rico when Pablo was two months old.
Tito Flaminio – Amalia’s husband.
Sumo - Lillian's very fat, orange tabby tomcat.
Heroines and villains come in all sizes, shapes and realities. When creating characters for each of the three stories in The Tropics, I didn’t set out to tie the three stories together. Each was written separately and then the stories were "re-worked" with threads that continued through all three.
When I later connected these novellas, characterization had to be maintained. I then wrote “deeper” personality sketches for each focal character.
Most of all, what’s important here is to see that heroines and villains should no longer fit stereotypical images and characterization.
I rather like the idea of a dire situation instead of a person being the antagonist. It opens up endless possibilities for improbable dilemmas to face when creating characters and characterization.
If you are a beginning writer attempting your first story or novel, try writing it first using typical heroines and villains. It’s easier when creating characters and offers a vast amount of eye-opening experience. Once you get the feel for what composes heroines and villains, and protagonists and antagonists, your Muse will want to make the leap to a more complicated plot.
You may also wish to visit the list of numerous primary and secondary characters for my Egyptian novel, The Ka. You'll find more tips about characters on those pages too.
SPECIAL NOTE: The Tropics is out of print. Used copies are still around. However, I have rewritten the book and published it as an eBook. Read about the exciting expansion of the stories under the new title and cover, Legacy of the Tropics.